Text by Vicki L. Ingham
“No matter where I work, I’m influenced by what’s out the window,” Jack Fhillips says. In Manhattan his palette is gray and white; in Bermuda it’s sand, sea glass, and pinks. For Black Squirrel Farm, his 123-year-old home in upstate New York, he looked out the windows at the “gorgeous greens of pines and evergreens” and brought those hues indoors. “My attitude is, when you’re surrounded by nature that way, you need to make it flow inside,” he says.
Because the house has so many big, double-hung windows, the interiors receive lots of light, allowing Jack to use an intense dark green in the living room and dining room. For the rest of the house he collected dozens of green paint samples from all the area paint stores and laid them out to see which ones appealed to him the most. The resulting choices range from pistachio to sage to mint and bottle-green.
In the living room, the dark walls contrast dramatically with the white draperies, rug, upholstery, and accessories, creating a formal English-country look.
In the sitting room, upholstery fabrics blend with the soft tint on the walls, producing a more informal environment for relaxing and watching TV. The bedrooms, painted in cooler pistachio and blue-greens and accented with white, feel refreshing. Some designers might introduce a pop of contrasting color, but not Jack. “I believe in flow,” he says. To keep the monochromatic scheme in each room interesting, he includes a range of shades and uses the warmth of wood to add depth and contrast.
Only one room, a guest bedroom, departs from the green theme. A brown and white Mount Vernon toile launched Jack on a collecting spree of George and Martha Washington items, which netted an antique print of the first president. Its sepia-toned mat inspired a café au lait color for the walls in this room.
Jack has residences in Manhattan and West Palm Beach, but this country home is “Jack in the woods—It’s me at my most relaxed,” he says. Originally a boarding house, the simple shingled structure suffered the indignities of various updates, including “the sins of the ‘70s and the bad vibes from the ‘80s,” he recalls. “It was a sad old house, in a way.”
While renovation was underway, the designer began collecting furniture and accessories specifically for the house. He chose 18th- and 19th-century English furniture for its clean, simple lines, which suits the unfussy, rectilinear style of the house. While some pieces had a pedigree, others were rescued from the curb or discovered at thrift shops and given a second life with paint and upholstery. Jack is a perfectionist when it comes to designing his own furniture line, but he embraces imperfection in his collections. “When I see a chipped plate or a dented, dinged piece of furniture, I say, ‘If only you could talk,’ he says. “It means more if it’s not perfect.”
Mixing fine antiques with salvaged finds evokes the “British bits-and-pieces” approach to decorating and gives a house comfortable, welcoming character—just what you’d want for a retreat in the country.